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Bali climate summit: a test of the world's resolve

At next week's meeting in Indonesia, more than 100 nations will gather to work on a new emissions pact.

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Next week is seen as crunch time in the fight against global warming. Representatives from some 130 nations will gather in Bali, Indonesia, beginning a two-year effort to agree on a new pact to cut greenhouse-gas emissions – one that goes well beyond the goals of the current Kyoto Protocol.

Though it's a complex task, there is some sense of optimism.

"There is an unprecedented awareness among the public and leaders now," Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the AFP news service. "My information is that some of the delegations who have been obstructionist in the past will be much more cooperative this time," said Mr. Pachauri, citing "developments in Australia" and rising interest in climate change in the US.

Still, no one expects this to be easy.

"The risks inherent in failing to act decisively are simply too great," write William J. Antholis and Todd Stern of the Center for American Progress in The Washington Quarterly. They continue:

"As many as 1–2 bil­lion people will face increased water scarcity; thawing permafrost will destabilize building foundations and other structures; declining crop yields will lead to increased hunger in the dry tropics, including vast regions of Africa; and 20–30 percent of global plant and animal life will face extinction."

Poorer nations are especially vulnerable, the United Nations warned in its 2007 Human Development Report. The Associated Press summarized:

"Floods, droughts and other climate disasters will rob millions of children of the decent meals and schools they need unless rich nations provide $86 billion by 2015 to help the poor adapt to global warming.... Without the money, the panel found, a warmer world 'could stall and then reverse human development' in the countries where 2.6 billion people live on $2 a day or less.' "

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